Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

Department of health director visits Pioneer Home


August 15, 2019

Staff and residents alike at the Wyoming Pioneer Home are breathing a little easier after last week’s visit by the new director of the Wyoming Department of Health, Michael Ceballos.

Ceballos replaces former director Tom Forslund in overseeing everything health related in the state, including Public Health, Medicaid and Kid Care Chip, the Pioneer Home and other state health agencies.

“This (Pioneer Home) is our military base,” Ceballos said. “Its stable, and that’s a blessing. We’re going to run it on the idea this is our facility and we’re going to do what we can to keep it open.”

One thing the state is short on is assisted living facilities and for the past few years there has been worry that the state was going to close the doors on the Pioneer Home or sell it off to a company that would come in and privatize the facility.

There was a lot of reluctance for new residents to move into the Pioneer Home, worrying about whether they would have somewhere to live if either of those options were to become reality.

Another argument used in an attempt to rid itself of the facility was that it was cutting into the profits of private facilities.

“We need as many care facilities in this state as we can get,” Ceballos said. “I don’t think this facility has a large impact on the private facilities.”

For the past few years the big argument for closing the doors has been money. The state has had some financial backsliding and the Pioneer Home was one of the areas they felt they could cut funding from.

“We are now taking Medicaid, so that has been good for our budget,” said Sharon Skiver, director of the Pioneer Home. “That will mean less we have to ask the state for. It’s a new revenue stream and we’re working our hardest to get everyone signed up.”

Former County Commissioner Brad Basse said the bottom line is the quality of people’s lives. “The quality of life here is better than any nursing home,” he said.

Ceballos agreed, “We’re going to do the best we can. It extends their quality of life and we need more facilities like this. We need to work together to find the solution.

“You are the closest to the people we serve, so I have to listen to you so we can come up with some solutions.”

Ceballos comes into this job with a new perspective and really, no dog in the fight. He said he’s willing to ask questions and he’s willing to learn. His political standing is fiscally conservative, but he said there are an awful lot of unfunded mandates floating around and those don’t equate to smaller government, it just means the buck has been passed down the line.

“I warned the governor when I took this position that I was going to be very independent about it,” he laughed. “I’m going to bring a business perspective to this. When we really understand what we’re trying to do we work better together.”

Ceballos said this trip to Thermopolis was specifically planned before weather got too bad as he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to travel to all the facilities on this end of the state and take a look around.

He would like to set up a public meeting in the not too distant future so he can hear what the residents and those in the community have to say.


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